The Government has offered international investment funds “sweetheart tax arrangements” and then let them “screw people” with extortionate rents, Mary Lou McDonald has told The Hard Shoulder.
This evening, the Sinn Féin leader told Kieran Cuddihy she would give the Government 'E or F' grades as the coalition approaches its one-year anniversary.
She said the Government had failed particularly on housing and rejected the idea that the COVID pandemic had prevented it from introducing the measures needed to address the crisis.
“What we need – and let me be specific – is we need to cut rents,” she said. “We have suggested it be done by way of a tax credit to the value of a month’s rent for people.
“Then we need to freeze rents. We need to ensure no further hikes for the next three years – but the Government didn’t do that.
“What is worse, they presided over a situation - and still do - where very large investment funds - call them vultures, call them cuckoos, call them whatever feathered creature you wish - will come in to areas and buy up homes from under the noses of workers and families who can’t get housing.
“Then, not alone that, they will become absentee landlords – extortionate, rack-renting landlords; fleecing people with unbelievable levels of rent.”
— NewstalkFM (@NewstalkFM) June 22, 2021
She admitted that there is room for international investors in the property market – but noted that it is not reasonable for somebody with very modest accommodation to be paying up to €1800 a month in rent.
“I do not accept that it is a good day’s work for a government to allow large investment funds to snap up lock, stock and barrel, large-scale property from under people’s noses in the midst of a housing crisis,” she said.
“They allowed these international funds off the hook by the way. They enticed them in with sweetheart tax arrangements and then these same funds literally screw people or fleece people with eye-watering rents that are far in excess of what many of us who pay mortgages are shelling out for our accommodation.
“They are absentee landlords and yes, of course there is room in a mixed market for international investment but that is not what this looks like and it needs to be called out.”
She noted that it was Fine Gael and Labour that originally introduced the tax breaks for investors but insisted that those that are persisting with it now, “when it is very obvious we are in housing crisis need to be called out on it and need to be held to account.”
“COVID did not and could not stop them from taking the bull by the horns and actually dealing with that issue,” she said. “They have chosen not to.”
Back in May, the Government introduced new legislation it believes will act as a “strong deterrent” to the activities of cuckoo funds.
Under the measures, investors will face a 10% stamp duty charge when buying 10 or more residential homes – up from the current rate of 1%.
Meanwhile an 'owner-occupier guarantee' aims to ringfence up to 50% of homes in new developments for owner-occupiers.
The legislation will only apply to new planning permission applications.
You can listen back to Deputy McDonald here: